Johnny A

Photography by:  Michael Sparks Keegan

“With (a traditional) guitar amplifier you go from room to room, club to club, hall to hall, and your amps sound kind of different all of the time. These K10’s seem to be very, very consistent to me. Night after night. I don’t play at polite volume levels - it’s pretty potent on stage. I have two of these coming back to me, and they’re only 4 feet away from me, aiming right at me. And I don’t get ear fatigue from them. I find that it reproduces exactly what I want to hear. The low-end is really tight, the mid-range is pleasing, and the high end is smooth.”

-Johnny A


QSC: Johnny, how long have you been using QSC products?

Johnny: Oh, I've been using these K10s now for probably close to two years I think, maybe, a year and a half, two years.

QSC: How did you come to find them and use them?

Johnny: I run my guitars direct when I play live - it's a little unorthodox for the standard guitar player. Most guys go through an amplifier and go through their speakers, and their speaker goes to the front of house.  But part of getting my sound is I run direct; I run a couple Marshall pre-amps and run direct right into the console and it's a little bit unnerving because even though you have your whole front end system there, the same, night after night, your speakers, when you go into every club, would be different monitors, so it essentially like you feel like you're playing through a different amp every night. And I was getting very frustrated with going into clubs and different rooms that did not have good fold-back systems. So I started asking people, and a good friend of mine that owns a sound company mentioned to me the new K Series QSC's. And he actually mentioned the K12 first, and I auditioned the K12 and found the K10's more to my liking. For me, I thought the low end response was a little…the fundamental was more connected to the rest of the sound, as opposed to this bass that didn't seem to connect with my guitar. I'm using these as guitar monitors, not for vocal monitors, so I just found it by asking people about what would be a good monitor - Self-powered, a lot of power, consistent, good quality, reliable, lightweight. That's what I was looking for. Something I could have with me all the time in case I go into a house and I don't like their monitors, but more often than not, now I'm using my own QSC's on the road all the time.

QSC: Your rig is a lot different from most guys, instead of a guitar into a Fender or a Marshall, or what have you. How did you start this process of pre-amp to powered-speaker thing? How did that come about?

Johnny: Initially it started back when I was playing with Peter Wolf. When I was with Wolf, I worked with him for like 7 years, and I had a couple of Marshall 30th anniversary half stacks, and I did the traditional thing - I used 2 half stacks and I plugged a 57 in front of the speakers and we mic'd them and we sent it out. One day I was at a sound check early and it had this line-out compensated speaker emulation line-out XLR. I had never tried it before, and I asked the sound man, "Can we just experiment with this?" We did, and I listened to it, and I said "Oh, I guess I think it sounds pretty good, but let me hear the 57…yeah, it sounds good. Let me hear the DI", and it started to sound remarkably good. So I said, "Well, give me this like blind, taste test, and just switch back and forth. Don't tell me what I'm listening to, and just make a check mark to the one I like better." And more often than not, I was picking the direct sound that I liked more. So, once I discovered that, I thought there might be something to work with here. I had a Shure FP32 line mixer, which is just an electronic news-gathering, field production mixer. I plugged the back of my amp into the mixer and started listening to the sound through studio headphones. And started just testing things that I liked about my tone and not. After that, when I recorded my first solo album, I didn't use any speaker cabinets at all. It was just a guitar cable into the front of my Marshall speaker emulator. Out of the back of my Marshall speaker emulator to the DI, to my Neve 1058, out of my Neve 1058, bypassing the SSL, directly into the back of a Studer, and that's how it started. I like it. It keeps you honest as a player. When you play direct, if you have a bad night you know it - let's put it that way, because there is no forgiveness at all in the way that you play the gig with this kind of a rig. But I've come to like it because you get the total frequency range of the guitar. A lot of times when you're playing through, whether it is, like something larger, a Marshall, combo, a half stack, the speakers are voiced in such a way that you always get these hot frequencies that jump out on a guitar. It's never like a piano where you sit down and it's the whole frequency range. I find that when I run direct through my Marshall pre's, not using speakers, I get that whole frequency response back. I just depend on trying to get that clarity and that balance.

QSC: Traditionally, guitar players go for things like low-wide Celestions, to cover their sound, almost like a tone source as opposed to a reproductive source. How is playing through the K10 different?

Johnny: Yeah, I've used a bunch of different monitors, and I've owned some before the QSC's, and what I've found is the QSC's seem to be completely natural. As soon as I plugged them into my rig, it was the sound that I wanted to hear. And what I liked about it is that the high end on these is very smooth. It wasn't a high end that, especially after… you know we do a two-hour show and you know, even though I'm playing direct, I don't play at polite volume levels.  It's pretty potent on stage. I run in stereo. I have two of these coming back to me, and they're only 4 feet away from me, and they're aiming right at me. Typically a guitar player would play, 10, 12, 15 feet away from your amplifier. And it might be a twin, or it might be a half stack, but consequently the tone is not coming any higher than maybe thigh-level. You're not hearing it at your ears.  I'm hearing these things at my ears, 4 feet away, at easily 105db every night. And I don't get ear fatigue from them. I find that it reproduces exactly what I want to hear. The low-end is really tight, the mid-range is pleasing, and the high end is smooth.

QSC: Johnny, traditional guitar players have techniques in their arsenal such as feedback, mushiness of the amplifiers in terms of response and how they can dig the pick into the strings. Can you emulate, or obtain things like that? Have you had to make any adjustments in your techniques?

Johnny: No, I can get all of that stuff. I definitely get feedback. You know, the mushiness that comes from…that whole forgiving sag thing that you're talking about…my rig is not really that type of rig. My Marshall pre-amps are set to be completely clean so they sound more like a Fender Twin clean. And then I use outboard with a Seymour Duncan Twin Tube Classic or something like that. That's where I look for the gain and to get the sag back. But as far as feedback goes, oh yeah, I get all of that stuff. I mean my set goes from playing Chet Atkins-y type of stuff to over the top Hendrix/Zeppelin stuff and all points in between. And that's what I love about the rig and the way I do things. It allows me to get those kinds of dynamics and I can still get all of the traditional British, blues/rock stuff that you're speaking about.

QSC: What about portability?

Johnny: The K10's are super light and super portable. I'm s small guy and sometimes I gotta lift this stuff myself. Small. 1000 watts a cabinet. Pleasing sound. And very consistent. You know, with any guitar amplifier you go from room to room, club to club, hall to hall, and your amps sound kind of different all of the time. These K10's seem to be very, very consistent to me. Night after night, I've been able to at least rely on getting back pretty much 90% of what I'm expecting. So, that's a pretty good percentage ratio, I think.